New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu is in the midst of the best season of her career, and Chicago Sky veteran Candace Parker helped her get there.
Ionescu missed most of her rookie season in 2020 with an ankle injury, then dealt with the nagging effects of that injury through 2021. Now she is finally fully healthy, and it is showing on the court.
“I knew this was going to be the year that I was finally able to play like myself,” Ionescu told Boardroom. “And win or lose, as long as I could play to the best of my ability and I can train as much as I want and just be fully present, I was going to be happy.”
Ionescu hasn’t just shown up for the New York Liberty this season. She’s been one of the best players in the game. Recently, she became the first player in WNBA history with 500 points, 200 rebounds and 200 assists in a single season.
On July 7, she recorded the first 30-point triple-double in WNBA history. It was her second of the season and the third of her career, tying her with Parker for the most all-time — in just her third season in the league.
Ionescu’s stat line — 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game — represents a step up from her sophomore season, in which she put up a still-respectable 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.
“I rushed myself back. It was pretty complicated,” Ionescu told Boardroom. “Looking back, I shouldn’t have played as early as I did and through as much pain as I did. It was hard dealing with a lot of the people that just thought I just wasn’t playing like that because I wasn’t capable.”
After suffering her injury during her rookie season, Ionescu attempted to make her way back to the court too quickly. She wanted to develop relationships with teammates that she didn’t really get to know before having to leave the Wubble in 2020. But she remained limited by her injury, jumping off just one leg to avoid pain in her ankle.
“Obviously I never talked about it,” Ionescu said. “Never told anyone. My trainers didn’t know. My coaches didn’t know. No one knew.”
Parker, though, noticed during a game between the Liberty and Sky last season and offered up some advice.
“‘Hey, I know you’re in a lot of pain,’” Ionescu recalls Parker saying. “‘Get your body healthy and then you’ll be ready to perform.’ I just felt like no one knew what I was going through, so when I was able to hear that from her, I thought, ‘This is cool. Someone has my back. And someone understands what I’m going through and the target that I have.’ So we’ve gotten even closer through this last year, and I’ll always really appreciate her for that.”
In the offseason, Ionescu told Boardroom she put all of her efforts into getting fully healthy again.
“I kind of took a break because I was personally embarrassed,” Ionescu said. “I was just like, ‘This is not acceptable. I need to be better.’”
Ionescu has gotten back to being better, and then some, this season. The Liberty (13-20) are fighting for a playoff spot, although their hopes were dimmed a bit Monday by a loss to the Dallas Wings.